Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
This series of posts flows from two premises and one conclusion: (1) people follow leaders; (2) Jesus is The Perfect Leader; and therefore (3) everyone (including marketplace leaders) should consider following Jesus.
GREAT LEADERS PERSEVERE
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas Edison
Before coming to my senses in my fifties, I ran marathons for enjoyment. From personal experience, these 26.2 mile races are a metaphor for perseverance – or lunacy! According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, perseverance is “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition.” As anyone who has seriously engaged in distance running knows, marathon is spelled H-A-R-D-S-H-I-P including long training runs, injuries and disappointment when personal goals are missed.
One of the best tales of business perseverance is the birth of FedEx. From an article by Eugene Linden published in the April 1984 edition of Inc.: “Some feel that the significance of [FedEx] is that it created a $3-billion industry where none existed before…Others say the significance is in showing how one man, Frederick W. Smith, could see trends in the world, conceptualize a product that would capitalize on those trends, and motivate an untested work force to build a $1.2-billion empire…others assert that the company shows the virtues of persistence with the right product in a growing market. Finally, a broad spectrum of observers claim that the history of modern venture capital would be drastically different had the company failed. No matter how the story is told, however, it has assumed the status of myth.”
A few years after FedEx achieved lift-off, I was appointed CEO of a venture capital company. In those days, we often teamed up with other VCs to do “club deals.” At a board meeting of one of our investees, I chatted about FedEx with my counterpart from Citicorp Venture Capital, a unit of my previous employer. CVC was one of the original investors in FedEx and participated in multiple financing rounds. He noted that Fred Smith was not the only one who persevered. So too did the financiers who had the foresight (and the guts) to see FedEx through to launch. I suspect many would have tossed in the towel well before the company achieved commercial success.
As inspiring as the FedEx story is, Jesus’ story of perseverance is immeasurably greater. For context, Jesus came into the world he created with the goal of opening the door to a relationship with God through his sacrificial death on a cross. It is one thing to persevere toward some worldly objective, as meritorious as that may be. It is quite another, however, to proceed unwaveringly toward Jesus’ self-proclaimed objective of dying!
From the moment he launched into public ministry, Jesus faced hardship including temptation, misunderstanding, hostile opposition and disappointment. The religious authorities vilified him for, in their opinion, disobeying the Mosaic law while at the same time acknowledging that Jesus actually performed miracles! Even his own followers misunderstood him. They didn’t get it when he plainly explained his mission. They doubted and opposed him on occasion. Ultimately, one betrayed him to the authorities and the rest abandoned him.
While Jesus’ death led many to believe that he failed, his resurrection on the third day vindicated his claims and opened the door to my relationship with God. I am forever grateful that he persevered for me.
Next week, we will examine the ability to impart courage, another key characteristic of great leaders.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.